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Networking & Communications

The Networking & Communications Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about power & apps, wireless technology, voice & internet, and network security as they relate to networking and communications fields. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Cybersecurity: A Fact of Technological Life

Posted April 22, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Cyber-threats and attacks can take many shapes, but they all have the same objective: to cause harm for gain. The need to protect computer devices and IoT networks from destruction and damage is not new; it began in the late 1980s with a worm created by Robert Morris.


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Bridging the Industrial IoT Gap With Learning Tools For Engineers, Students and Makers

Posted January 15, 2017 12:00 AM by Heiko Luckhaupt
Pathfinder Tags: Arduino iot RS Components siemens

Heiko Luckhaupt, Industry Sector Marketing Manager at RS Components discusses the gap between the IoT and the industrial world and a new open Arduino-compatible development platform for students and other learners to help bridge the divide.

To help students, makers and young developers in the transition from simple IoT projects and prototypes to entry-level industrial applications, the SIMATIC IOT2020 from Siemens is a highly valuable tool for university laboratories and academic environments active in the field of electronics and automation. IOT2020 is an Arduino-compatible industrial IoT gateway and builds a bridge between the two worlds by combining the flexibility of open-source ecosystems and high-level programming languages with the standards and established communication protocols. The system provides a simple way for engineers to get started with the industrial IoT, while meeting the challenges of an increasingly connected world. The highly affordable device comes with industrial certificates such as UL and CE. While being suitable for a large range of industrial customers, it is also perfect for educational purposes and provides students with the ideal platform to get a rapid experience of practical development. It also enables start-up companies and makers to develop, transform and build ideas into professional industrial projects and applications.

The IOT2020 is an open and flexible IoT gateway that is designed for continuous industrial operation. It can be used to retrieve, process, analyse and send data to almost any kind of device due to its various interfaces including Ethernet, USB and micro SD. The gateway is compatible with open-source software such as the Arduino IDE and Linux, as well as third-party hardware such as PLCs and sensors from various different brands via Modbus or PROFINET. The product is also compatible with Arduino shields and various programming languages, including high-level languages such as Java, C++ and JSON via a range of IDEs that include Eclipse and compilers for Yocto Linux. It is also expandable via an on-board PCIe port. Compatibility with the Arduino IDE and Arduino shields will enable students and makers to scale up their existing desktop-built projects and start getting familiar with industrial standards and communications protocols.

Overall, the new system brings together industrial standards with the flexibility of open hardware and software and will be a valuable tool for students and makers facing the challenge of developing industrial applications in an increasingly hyper-connected world.

Editor's Note: This is a sponsored blog post from RS Components Industrial.

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When Alexa Goes Wild

Posted January 11, 2017 2:33 PM by HUSH

In 2008—back when we were still sticking GPS units and mounts to our windshields like cavemen—I owned a Magellan GPS that included voice recognition. In addition to about two dozen preprogrammed commands (e.g., “Magellan, nearest gas”), I could also speak directly at the device to input my destination. This GPS was also one of the first to integrate Bluetooth, which allowed me to take and make phone calls hands-free. At the time, I drove a black sedan with tinted windows, which added up to one of my friends calling my car the Batmobile.

Obviously, the GPS technology of 2008 doesn’t hold up well to modern standards. With rare exception, people use their phones or integrated GPS for navigation these days. Bluetooth is standard on most new cars.

And even though the voice recognition feature was cool, it wasn’t very useful. I’d estimate that the GPS would accurately recognize and execute commands less than 25% of the time. So, considering that there are about 10 different digital, intelligent personal assistants (IPAs) out on the market today, the rise of voice recognition technology is fairly impressive. We’re crowded by Alexa, Cortana, Siri and the gang, each of whom has been integrated into dozens of proprietary and licensed devices.

However, I’m still hesitant to adopt one of these digital orphans in my home. I can clearly recognize the value of them—reading a recipe while you cook, providing a weather forecast while you get dressed, ordering pizza with a short command—but I can never shake the feeling of always being listened to.

The developers promise that even though the microphone is always on, IPAs only respond and begin to record once they recognize their ‘wake word.’ Additionally, these devices typically have a short reception range, typically the size of a small room or less, so if you keep them out of the bathroom and bedroom, embarrassing audio captures are much less likely. However, as a consumer, it’s virtually impossible to know exactly what an Echo or Google may have overheard and saved.

I also feel there are many unforeseen consequences to be witnessed. Case in point: last week, a news story popped up about unintentional orders placed via Amazon’s Alexa, in this case integrated into the Amazon Echo. A San Diego news station did a fluff story about how a six-year-old girl accidentally ordered a $160 dollhouse by asking Alexa to play with her and get her a dollhouse. Once the anchor of the news station repeated the phrase “Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,” Alexa devices in viewers’ homes began placing orders for dollhouses.

Since these devices can’t hold a full-on conversation—yet—they fall short when there are ambiguities in language that might be cleared up by context, inflection, body language, and numerous other variables.

(However, putting two [modded] Google Homes next to each other can result in some strange dialogue. It's not sexual at all, really.)

Even though the AI behind IPAs is quite impressive, I can’t help but feel that it’s worth holding out for the next generation.

14 comments; last comment on 01/13/2017
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Apple Pursuing Augmented Reality Glasses That Connect to an iPhone

Posted December 11, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Apple Inc. is exploring augmented reality (AR) glasses that could connect wirelessly to an iPhone and show images and other information in the user's field of vision. The company reportedly purchased near-eye displays for testing. The project could have stemmed from Apple's recent acquisitions of PrimeSense, a company that makes motion-sensing technology, as well as some other AR start-up companies.


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The Rise of Fog Computing

Posted November 11, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

The Internet of Things needs a new way of processing and analyzing the data generated by the intelligent objects populating the digital landscape. A paradigm called fog computing, however, may correct the problem. The approach advocates shifting more computing and memory resources to the network's edge to enable real-time, data-driven decision making. Specialized devices called fog nodes and fog gateways move data processing to the optimum location for deterministic applications.

Learn more about network gateways


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7 comments; last comment on 11/13/2016
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